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Cultural Valuing of Fishery Resources by the Norwegian Saami

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Ecological integrity is characterized by “wild nature,” “the autopoietic (self-creative) capacities of life to organize, regenerate, reproduce, sustain, adapt, develop, and evolve,” and being “valuable and valued” (Westra et al. 2000). For indigenous people, however, the issue of ecological integrity cannot be separated from cultural integrity, for in indigenous beliefs and practices, people are not separable from nature (Berkes 2008). The interdependence of biological and cultural diversity today may reflect a small-scale ecological phenomenon in the past: the process of coevolution of small human groups with their local environments, modified by humans as they adapted and developed specialized knowledge of it (Maffi 2001). Indigenous ecological knowledge, practices, and ethics can inform modern policies designed to cope with social dilemmas of common-pool resources and environmental challenges. Climate change poignantly exemplifies a modern global-scale ecological phenomenon requiring local-scale cultural adaptations: indigenous and traditional peoples, as communities living in marginal lands and highly dependent on natural resources, are among the most vulnerable groups being impacted by climate change, but they also have the most to offer of tested adaptation and mitigation strategies to environmental changes (Macchi et al. 2008).

Cultural adaptations to changing local environments and policies depend upon cultural knowledge and environmental values. This chapter analyzes natural resource policy from the perspective of cultural property, a way of knowing shared among members of a local community. It values not only access and ownership rights to natural resources, but also the historical relationships of people to places. Identifying cultural property as a distinct property regime in environmental policy may enhance the value and protection of wild living resources and the traditional livelihoods and ecological knowledge of the communities dependent on them. An intergenerational- or G-index, proposed to measure the cultural value of natural resources to local communities (Lam, in review), is applied to salmon resource use by the Saami, the indigenous people of Norway. The cultural implications of Saami natural resource use within national and regional environmental policies highlight the unique challenges posed of integrated ecological and cultural integrity for indigenous people.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2011

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